The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

The Professionals

The 18th Century saw the perfection of the concept of the professional army.  From the point of view of the monarch they were a great asset to the  kingdom –ensuring protection from enemies from within as well as without the crown’s borders.  The professional army had numerous positive attributes.  It also had limitations.  Both its attributes and its limitations directly effectived how the Kingdoms and Empires of the 18th Century waged wars.  What were those effects?

Today the Western military forces, including the U.S. Army, are considered the finest professional military forces ever produced.  As a professional military force, what attributes, both positive and negative, does the U.S. military, and the army in particular share with the professional forces of Frederick the Great’s Prussia?

Do the professional attributes of the U.S. military effect how the U.S. military wages war in a way similiar to the professionals effect on war in 18th Century?  If so, how?


August 31, 2009 - Posted by | H100 | , , , , , , , , ,


  1. I guess I will start the Blog this week. I just want to let everyone know I learned something important today. For the longest time, I always wondered whose great idea it was to let the Soldiers line up and shoot each other. I never saw the point of walking in line while getting shot at, but now I know we can thank Louis XIV for this when he stated “victory went to the force that absorbed the worst that the enemy could inflict and still maintained order” (45, Knox) ha!
    If Louis XIV can train his people to walk in line to certain death (especially if you are the front liners), then anyone can be trained to become a professional Soldier (maybe?). But I do have to agree that this period significantly changed the military forever. Structured formation, chain of command, focus on discipline and standard, things that we see today in our Army. Only big difference is that Louis XIV used fear to discipline his Soldiers while we use many different methods to enforce standard and instill discipline. However, if I have to line up my Soldiers and walk in line while enemies are shooting at us, then I will also have to borrow Louis XIV technique of fear OF DEATH!!!

    Comment by J Lee, 17B | September 4, 2009

  2. Much like the U.S. Army of today, Frederick the Great understood the positive attributes and effects of good order and discipline. He understood that an army’s reputation (overall army’s reputation or the reputation of the officers within it) can contribute to its victory or failure. He knew that if his army had a weak reputation, he would lose competent and trained forces to desertion, disobedience, and general attrition. In order to combat this and strengthen his army’s reputation, he implemented a good order and discipline program to ensure his army developed into a professional army.

    Frederick placed the burden on his officers to discipline and develop his army. Hoping to increase troop welfare, Frederick ensured that the troops were fed better than any other army in Europe. They trained their army to ensure that there was a succession in the chain of command. If an officer was killed, someone could step up into that position and be already trained to take charge. They developed accountability by conducting daily roll call. They developed measures of imposing strict military justice and penalties on those who deserted, marauded, or were disobedient. They also placed officers in strategic locations during patrols and on the ends of lines and files in order to maintain greater command and control of forces.

    The development of logistics bases or magazines led to a more professional army by ensuring that measures of subsistence were maintained. This allowed the forces to travel longer distances and be continuously resupplied. The magazines were also maintained by trustworthy people and were responsible to dispense the logistical assets, but also for the accountability for these items.

    They began to train while learning strategy and tactics such as how to attack a fortress, conduct a river crossing operation, counter attack, retrograde operation, how to properly employ intelligence assets (spies), etc.

    Additionally, the troops were also responsible to have a greater knowledge and understanding of the country in which they were in or the country in which they were fighting. They studies roads, maps, town culture and demographics, terrain, etc. This helped employ tactics when attacking, defending, planning movement, or planning the most strategic places to encamp. It also facilitated coordination between their forces and strengthened security measures.

    The affects of the development of Frederick’s professional army can be seen during the Battle of Leuthen. During this battle, Frederick utilized the development of his professional army to gather at predetermined points in order to mass his forces against smaller forces, one at a time, which allowed him to win quick and decisive battles and avoiding one large drawn out war. He utilized terrain and maneuver to defeat his enemy using math and geometry calculation in his strategy. From understanding simple math, he also learned the need to decrease the depth of this files and columns, from 9-10 men deep down to 3-4 men deep, which allowed him to place a greater number of men on line, thus giving him greater firepower.

    The development of Frederick the Greats Professional Army eventually developed into primitive doctrine (e.g. The Articles within Frederick the Greats “Military Instructions to his Generals”), and is much like the doctrine of today’s U.S. Army.

    Comment by John Palazzolo SG 17A | September 7, 2009

  3. I would like to comment on the positive attributes that the professional army spawned during the 18th Century. First, realizing the importance of a trained, educated in the art of war and strategy officer corps and making it a requirement to learn important lessons prior to commissioning. We (Majors in CGSC) are direct offspring of this thought over 200 years past. Second, the new professional army realized that the lack of solidly planned logistics in depth could and did frequently seriously impact the maneuver, and operations of a campaing so drastically as to cause desertion, pillaging, limitations to the generals maneuverability of forces and poor civil-military relations within the country of the campaign. Third, but in no means the last was the strenthening of general’s staffs and staff headquarters. We know how this can be the most oil machine and sometimes the machine that has loose bolts that can just turn into bureacracy and possibly at the peril of the tactical plan.
    Awesome I believe that the officers of over 200 years realize something we seem as so very basic and fundamental and made a conscious movement to transform their military to become not just more lethal but efficient.

    Comment by Lynn Ray | September 7, 2009

  4. What sets our military apart from the professional Armies of Frederick the Great and his Army is the mix we have today of individuals serving, some who are in it for the pay or education benefits and others with a more altruistic sense of service to their coutry so we really have the best of the professional armies of Frederick the Great’s time and those patriots that rose up for nationalism in France during Napoleon’s era. The negative effects of the Armies of the 18th centtury are mitigated by this mixing of reasons we serve today. For example high desertion rates of the 18th century armies are mitigated today because of the sense of patriotism a US soldier feels. Also by not just depending upon patriotism to the USA, when we pay our soldiers an equivalent to the civilian sector (or just below it) we garner a commitment of professional development that goes beyond just nationalism.

    Comment by MAJ Chistopher "Kit" Johnson 17-D | September 15, 2009

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: